NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A man who opened fire inside a church, killing two people with a shotgun hidden in a guitar case, was frustrated at being unable to find a job and blamed liberals and gays, police said on Monday.
“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred of the liberal movement,” Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen told reporters of Sunday’s incident at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.
Suspect Jim Adkisson, 58, who was being held on $1 million bond, had previously worked as a mechanical engineer in several states. He described his violent plans in a four-page letter found at his home, which also explained that his age and “liberals and gays” taking jobs had worked against him.
Another recent setback was that Adkisson’s allotment of government-issued food stamps had been reduced, Owen said.
The church outside Knoxville, Tennessee, where some 200 people were watching a children’s play at the time, had been in the news recently for its “liberal stance,” Owen said.
Adkisson did not appear to belong to any organized groups and had no immediate family, Owen said. He did not appear to be targeting anyone, though he may have avoided shooting at children, he said.
Adkisson purchased the 12-gauge shotgun from a pawn shop about a month ago and brought it into the church inside a guitar case, Owen said. Police found 76 shotgun shells, along with another gun belonging to the suspect.
“I don’t think he expected to leave there alive, and were it not for the hasty actions of some of the other people in the sanctuary there may have been more fatalities,” Owen said.
The suspect fired three blasts before being subdued by congregants.
Killed was Greg McKendry, 60, a church member who apparently stood in front of the gunman and shielded others from a shotgun blast. Linda Kraeger, 61, among seven others who were wounded, died a few hours later.
There have been several church shootings in the United States in the past few years, including a 24-year-old man with a grudge against Christians who attacked a missionary training center and a megachurch in Colorado in December, killing four people before being wounded and killing himself.
Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Michael Conlon and Jackie Frank